Ahead of next week's West Virginia primary and following a week of candidate visits to Appalachia, how will coal country politics play in the presidential race? On today's The Cutting Edge, Greenwire reporter Dylan Brown discusses the candidates' competing messaging on the coal economy.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. Ahead of next week's West Virginia primary, how are coal country politics playing into the presidential race? Greenwire's Dylan Brown is following a week of candidate visits to West Virginia. Dylan, the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, held a rally in West Virginia just last night following an endorsement from the West Virginia Coal Association. Does Trump have the coal vote locked down?
Dylan Brown: I think so. At this point, both among coal operators and coal miners, he's saying all the right things at this point and he is doing exceptionally well at crafting a message that they want to hear. And he's also not Hillary Clinton. And so I think that has been, at least for the coal association, that was the clincher. He is a potential person that they think they can get behind.
Monica Trauzzi: What are his selling points? I mean has he actually given specifics yet on how he plans to save coal jobs?
Dylan Brown: No, and in typical Trump fashion he's saying all the right things but he's not getting into the specifics just yet. And I think that last night I mean the signs behind him said, "Trump Digs Coal." And he said, "Yeah, I do." And so I think it's as simple as that, and it's that broader message that has resonated across the country. West Virginia is kind of the poster child for all that he stands for.
Monica Trauzzi: And Hillary Clinton also visited Appalachia, and she proposed an economic stimulus plan for communities that are displaced from the transition to clean energy. Is that enough to garner votes from coal country?
Dylan Brown: She's struggling to live down the first half of what was a long explanation of her plan, her $30 billion plan to kind of revive these coal communities that have been so devastated by coal's collapse to help them transition into a new economy. But she said she's going to have to put a lot of coal miners and cooperatives out of business to do that. And I think it was very blunt. It might end up being an honest assessment of her policy, and that concerns coal country.
Monica Trauzzi: That's not something they wanted to hear though.
Dylan Brown: Absolutely not.
Monica Trauzzi: The recently sentenced Don Blankenship had words for Clinton earlier this week. How much clout does he still have in the region considering how much difficulty he's had?
Dylan Brown: Not much at this point. I mean he was recently convicted. It was a misdemeanor offense for conspiring to willfully violate mine safety violations. And that's in connection to the deaths of 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. And he still protests his innocence, but I mean the court has spoken and I think the reason you saw Hillary attack him this week was because she thinks that's the smart political move at this point. And you've seen a lot of other West Virginia lawmakers do the same.
Monica Trauzzi: How is Bernie Sanders playing?
Dylan Brown: Surprisingly well considering he holds probably the same or similar if not more stringent goals for climate change and energy. But his overall message of income and equality and jobs really hits home in a place like West Virginia. He's saying the kinds of things I think make Trump appeal as well. But for him, I mean he is still calling for a similar economic transition, $41 billion to Clinton's $30. And so he's hoping that his message of, you know, I'm going to bring jobs back to here resonate.
Monica Trauzzi: It remains very interesting to watch. We'll end it there. Thanks for coming on the show.
Dylan Brown: Of course.
Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.
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